In 587 B.C. Jerusalem fell to the babylonian invasion and the inhabitants of the Northern Jewish kingdom, Israel, were taken to Babylon as slaves. This was the beginning of their exile in a strange land. 

In their lowly slave condition within the prosperous babylonian empire the Israelites needed to create and remember their own story in order to survive as a people. The reponse to this urgency for self-identity is the Old Testament narrative and it is built around the central theme of the Covenants between God and his people.

There were probably many oral and even written sources of Jewish history and these were edited and collated in the biblical manuscripts to help bind the exiles together and give them identity. They are a sociological as much as a religious history.

Its is thought that parts of the first five books (The Pentateuch) were edited during the babilonian exile. When they regained their freedom (c.539 B.C.) and returned to their native land the books on the Prophets, Wisdom and the Psalms contiued to be edited to form part of the O.T.

The structure of the Covenant texts in the Bible appear to have much in common with Hittite treaty documents discovered in Boghazkoy, the old Hittite capital, in cuneiform tablets and dating from the late Bronze and Early Iron Ages (c.1400-1200 B.C.).

The Hittite treaties had two contractual formulae: 1. The parity treaty between equals and (2) the sovereign-vassal  treaty which was drawn up by a superior power and imposed upon an inferior. Both contain a similar structure: A preamble, an historical prologue, the list of stipulations, the witnesses, the curses and blessings, and provision for deposit and public reading of the covenant text. The  biblical covenant form resembles almost exactly Hittite treaty form, specifically the sovereign-vassal type.

The Covenant episodes are presented here in a set format:

- The historical background
- The biblical text
- An epiphany in which God is understood in a particular way.
- The Covenant promises between God and his people.
- The breaking of the Covenant promises.
- A curse is pronounced by God on the people for their rejection.
- A promise of a new Covenant is offered by God.

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The narratives of the various covenant bonds between God and humans are central to the meaning of the Bible. They offer a meaning to ...